From Programmer to Product Manager: How to achieve your career PB
As part of our Inspiring Women in Digital series, our energetic blogger Alex Hobbs spoke to Rachel Kerr about her thoughts on building a rewarding career in tech – and what ‘leaning in’ means to her.
AH: Working for LiveHire, in your opinion how has the growth of online communications impacted the talent acquisition process? And do you think as women in this industry its particularly important to use online tools to network / showcase skills?
RK: Things have definitely broadened in terms of talent acquisition. The issue is that most people are still defaulting to the easy option of posting to a job board and sitting and waiting for applications and then process blindly through to selection and rejection. LiveHire is pushing organisations to really take talent acquisition to a new level and utilise all online and offline sources to attract individuals into their private talent community. The sky is the limit really and those that think big are reaping the rewards of not only great talent but winning in terms of candidate engagement. The variety of online communications is exciting for everyone I think – we get to make a choice that feels right and suits our style. Definitely push yourself to try a variety of online tools to showcase yourselves, you need to stay current or you get left behind.
AH: What are your top tips for ensuring employment is proactive not reactive?
RK: For an organisation it is a very conscious decision to move from a process centric “reactive” recruitment model (ie vacancy requisition occurs which initiates advertise, apply, review, reject, repeat) to a human-centred “proactive” model where more energy is spent understanding your workforce and future growth needs and the attraction of potential future workers into your private LiveHire Talent Community via a range of engaging sourcing channels ie social, referrals, website, offline. I’m not sure I have met too many people that love being rejected via text/email or worse still – assuming a rejection via radio silence. LiveHire exists to flip the process so you approach people within your Talent Community based on availability, qualification and engagement.
AH: I know you mentioned in more recent years working with a start ups. Could you elaborate on this and how that has been a new challenge for you?
RK: I started in the HR Tech Startup space back in 2001. Prior to that I was only with large multi-nationals so it was a bit of a shock to the system – but a great challenge and something that really suited me. I think you either have it or you don’t. What I enjoy most about startups is the ability to truly make a difference on mass, to broaden your skill set across all areas of the business and true accountability and reward for the business success. There is nowhere to hide in a startup so you better be prepared to bring your best.
AH: What has been the most rewarding role or lesson for you so far over your very diverse portfolio?
I spent 12 years as the Head of Product Development for an online psych testing/recruitment platform called Onetest (now Revelian). There were so many firsts, so many lessons and so many successes. I guess the biggest lesson I learnt which is now a strength I possess is about ‘leaning in’ – self believe, confidence and a no fail mindset. I know now that this has always been a part of my DNA – it just took this role to really bring it to the surface of who I am.
AH: Do you think its more important to specialise/ be niche or be skilled across the board in the digital industry?
RK: For me as a female in IT, definitely a diverse skill set has been a conscious path I’ve travelled. My behavioural style places me in a space that sees me thrive both as an introverted and task/data oriented person and on the flip side I also love being around people and having influence. I determined early as an IT graduate in my role of Analyst/Programmer at Mincom that I wanted to have a relationship with the end user as well as the satisfaction in creating/coding. I guess I didn’t fit either camps fully so I just became the conduit between the two. Seemed natural to me but I determined that this made me quite unique and I liked that. I think for anyone in this industry you must first understand your strengths and then play to them. Don’t try to be something you are not and happiness and success will surely follow.
AH: For graduating women what’s your key piece of advice?
RK: As a graduate in the IT sector I guess mine was more accident than intention. I started uni at 16 and my choice of studying IT (back in the late 80’s) was more about where I felt I could stand out, be the minority as a female in a sector. I knew it would be male dominated but I felt that it was an advantage for me, not the other way around. What lens you choose to look through depends on what you see. Being female, non-typical and outgoing in IT was a huge advantage – you don’t need to match the sterotype to be successful.
My advice would be to keep an open mind, dream big and visualise your success. Network, not just via events but learn how to reach out to those that you want to be part of your network and don’t be afraid to ask. With everything – work damn hard – nothing is handed to you on the silver platter and sometimes as females we need to perform at a far higher level to stand out. Find a mentor!! Educate continuously – read everyday and upskill in the areas that you love and that fascinate you. Learn the art of creating happiness – this will lead to more success in your life than anything else. Lean in – make progress rather than aim for perfection.
AH: Also for up and comers do you have certain areas/roles you enjoyed most or think will boom soon?
RK: I’ve loved every role I have had over the years and embraced them all as an opportunity to learn and grow – not only about the industry and technical skills but, more importantly about myself and others. Human behaviour, neuroscience and the power of intention are areas that I think everyone should educate themselves in regardless of role. In terms of predicting boom areas – I think there are plenty of opinions out around this that people can research but the key is about always staying agile and taking ownership for the development of yourself as a person – don’t rely on others for this, if you receive the opportunity via an employer, embrace it but don’t expect it. Do what you love in order to love what you do. Seek it out and don’t be afraid to pivot to stay relevant.
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